HelpAge International and Sightsavers launch project to tackle blindness among older people in Morogoro

HelpAge International and Sightsavers are launching a new three-year project in Tanzania funded by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation. The Mwangaza project will support vulnerable communities in the central Morogoro region with affordable and quality eye care services.
The project will contribute to the reduction of preventable blindness in a region where over 22,000 people live with varying conditions of blindness. Of these eight in ten are people aged over 60, according to the Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children of Tanzania.
"The project aims to tackle avoidable blindness among the predominantly poor, rural communities that would otherwise not have access to simple treatment for such conditions as conjunctivitis, which causes redness and inflammation of the thin layer of tissue that covers the front of the eye," said Amleset Tewodros, HelpAge International Tanzania Country Director.
Other targeted conditions will include more complex surgeries, such as cataracts or glaucoma.
The project will work within existing eye health facilities in Morogoro region, including one regional referral hospital and nine district facilities, to strengthen capacity.
These district facilities have varying capacity to deliver eye health services. While some have trained personnel and equipment, others lack basic resources. The project will give supplies, specialist equipment and basic consumables to the facilities.
According to Tewodros, the project will work with the established network of older persons monitoring groups and older people’s associations across the region.
"Using such established grassroots networks, we are expecting to refer up to 38,000 men and women, 85% of whom are older people, to health facilities for proper treatments”, she said.
Gosbert Katunzi, Country Director for Sightsavers Tanzania said: "This project will enable us to further strengthen the capacity of the Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children to establish a comprehensive health system which links up eye care, education and rehabilitation services in the neediest regions of the country”.
Supply of relevant equipment and consumables, renovation of health facilities and training of health staff to deliver quality eye care services are part of the systems strengthening in the region.
A backlog of avoidable blindness cases is having a devastating effect on families and whole communities. Having lost their sight, people are at risk of losing their livelihoods and their ability to support a family and forge an economically viable life.
Blindness and poor vision have a tremendous impact on quality of life for older persons living in Morogoro as it often lead to social isolation and financial insecurity.
According to the Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children, the leading causes of blindness in the country are cataracts (50%), corneal blindness (20%) and glaucoma (10%).
The other causes, such as uncorrected refractive errors, retinal and optic nerve diseases, diabetes retinopathy, maculopathies genetic anomalies and albinism, account for the remaining 20%.
While active trachoma is no longer endemic in Morogoro, a backlog of Trichiasis Trachomatous, the fourth stage of the disease where eye lashes turn inwards, persists and will result in irreversible blindness if corrective surgery is not made available. Women account for 60% to 85% of all cases of trichiasis in the community in endemic areas.
About HelpAge International:
HelpAge International helps older people claim their rights, challenge discrimination and overcome poverty, so that they can lead dignified, secure, active and healthy lives. Our work is strengthened through our global network of like-minded organisations - the only one of its kind in the world.
In 2012, the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize of $1.5 million was presented to HelpAge International. The Hilton Foundation gives the annual award, the world's largest humanitarian prize, to an organisation that is doing extraordinary work to alleviate human suffering.
About Sightsavers:
Sightsavers is an international non-profit organisation working in eye health and neglected tropical diseases. We work in more than 30 developing countries
to prevent blindness, restore sight and advocate for social inclusion and equal rights for people with disabilities.
Since our founding six decades ago, Sightsavers has:
  • supported over 576.79 million treatments for blinding and potentially blinding conditions
  • carried out over 8.14 million operations to restore sight
  • trained more than 500,000 primary eye care workers
  • carried out rehabilitation training for 181,000 blind or low vision beneficiaries
  • supported 38,000 blind or low vision children to gain a school education.
In Tanzania, we work with and through the Government of Tanzania, line ministries and disabled peoples organisations to improve the life and welfare of
persons with disabilities. 
About Conrad N. Hilton Foundation:
The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation was created in 1944 by international business pioneer Conrad N. Hilton, who founded Hilton Hotels and left his fortune to help the world’s disadvantaged and vulnerable people. The foundation currently conducts strategic initiatives in six priority areas: providing safe water, ending chronic homelessness, preventing substance use, helping children affected by HIV and AIDS, supporting transition-age youth in foster care, and extending Conrad Hilton’s support for the work of Catholic Sisters.
In addition, following selection by an independent international jury, the foundation annually awards the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize to a non-profit organisation doing extraordinary work to reduce human suffering. From its beginning, the foundation has awarded more than $1.4 billion in grants, distributing $107 million in the US and around the world in 2015.
The foundation’s current assets are approximately $2.5 billion. For more information, please visit the website.
About the Mwangaza project:
Blindness and visual impairment have a major impact on the type and quality of life for already vulnerable and marginalised groups such as older persons, women and children. The project is funded by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation and will target the Morogoro region. Working with the regional authorities, the project will address the issue of avoidable blindness amongst older people in Morogoro Municipal Council; Morogoro Rural District Council; Mvomero, Gairo; Kilosa; Ulanga, Malinyi, Kilombero and Ifakara Town Council. It will increase demand and awareness at community level, provide quality eye care services and leverage partnerships in the policy environment to advocate for age and gender-equitable health policies and practice.
For media enquiries and spokespeople contact:
Henry Mazunda | Communications Officer | HelpAge International Tanzania | Tel: +255 22 2774 796| Mob: +255 685 277 812 +255 743 573 696 | Skype:
Koronel Kema | Programme Manager | Sightsavers Tanzania | Tel: +255 22 2780154 | Mob: +255 255 754077858 | Skype: koronel.kema